Cli-Michaud says she will offer a listening ear to the communities she represents and prioritize the issues people bring to her. Her own priorities include paving roads, improving healthcare for vulnerable residents in isolated areas, and Firesmarting communities. With these improvements, Cli-Michaud says there's potential to stoke tourism and bring economic development to communities in Nahendeh.
Born and raised in Fort Simpson, Cli-Michaud is a member of the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation and says she was a founding member of the Native Women's Association board in 1977. She has served as a warden and vestry member at Fort Simpson's Anglican Church since 1980.
She was a Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board member and chair for nine years, Nogha Enterprises president and vice president for two years, and a board member and chair of the Dehcho First Nations' investment management board for three years.
Shane Thompson is seeking re-election for a third term in Nahendeh. Other candidates include Sharon Allen, Josh Campbell, Hillary Deneron and Leslie Wright.
This interview was recorded on October 19, 2023. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Simona Rosenfield: Just to start, why did you decide to run?
Mavis Cli-Michaud: I was asked by my Elders and asked by people in general. They weren't happy, and just said that we find that our voice is not heard, and asked: "Would you run? Because we know that you listen, and we totally believe that you will listen to us and that our voices will be heard." So I said: "Well, I'll give it a challenge." And so here I am.
Q: What issues have you heard people talking about?
A: It varies. It's kind-of all over the map, right? Like, our infrastructure – our road improvements in the Nahendeh region – needs improvement.
Health needs and health improvements: the communication with health, the medevacs and medical escorts and just the structure of the health for the vulnerable and poor. I also heard about disability support. People just don't know what services are offered for them. Especially in smaller communities. If you're a cancer patient, you don't realize that I can get help with delivery, or I can get assistance with food delivery, or I can also get assistance with housing repairs. But how do I go about doing that? How can I? You know, I need help.
The other thing that has been front and centre, especially what we've gone through this past summer, is that people are wanting to make sure that they Firesmart their communities, and said we need to start being proactive instead of reactive to the fire. After this last year, if we have learned anything, we need to Firesmart our communities. So that was some of the issues that I've heard.
Q: What are some ideas you have to address the issues you're talking about?
A: I'd be an advocate on behalf of the people. You'd have to work with each department, whether it's health, transportation, education – you'd have to be able to work with the ministers that hold those portfolios and know exactly how to ask questions, when to ask questions, saying, "We need to address these, because these are issues that are front and centre for the people that put you in these electoral positions."
Q: What makes you feel equipped to do this work, negotiating and collaborating with other government departments and leaders to find solutions?
A: I think I have an ability to adapt and to adjust to changing situations. It doesn't matter what your situation is. I believe as an Aboriginal and traditional woman, I've been taught by my Elders from a very young age to listen to people when they speak and to be respectful. And that? It's a life-learned skill I have and I’ve developed from a very young age.
My ability to be able to adapt and adjust to changing situations, because things are always evolving and changing. I believe that over the last 30 or 40 years, I've shown that I've got good management, good time management skills, and I've got a really strong work ethic, and I'm really determined to succeed.
I've also got good communication skills and the ability to work with people. It doesn't matter what walk of life you are, I listen, and that's all that people want. That's what I'm hearing.
Q: I'd like to ask about your track record. Do you have any examples that show these skills in action?
A: Yeah, actually I have. I've been a board member and a chair of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board for the last nine years. I also was one of the founding members of the Native Women's Association that started back in 1977. I'm also the rector’s warden, and I'm still the rector’s warden, and have been since 1980 till now for our Anglican Church here in Fort Simpson.
I sat as the president and vice president of Nogha Enterprises, which is our local band construction company. With the Dehcho First Nations, we have an investment management board, I was a board member and chair for that.
I think some of those show that I have the leadership qualities, and I've also worked with the government for over 30 years in various departments and that’s in management positions. So that shows my leadership.
Q: Can you give one or two examples of the challenges that you think are affecting people in your district and your plan to address those challenges if elected?
A: Challenges. I don’t know if it would be a challenge... one of the things – I call it a challenge – is that we've waited over 20 years to have our infrastructure completed in the Nahendeh region.
That is, our road is not paved to Fort Simpson, it is not paved to Fort Liard. I think that it's about time we talk about infrastructure being completed. That should have been done years ago and it hasn't. I would like to at least have that done, because that itself promotes tourism in the region. It also helps economic development in the region. We have the Nahanni National Park in our region. And that just overflows to our airline companies, our hotels, our restaurants and crafts for the area, you know, we should be promoting.
And people want to come into the Dehcho and I find that a lot of tourists, when I ran Sambaa Deh Park as a contractor, I heard a lot of issues with tourism, tourists, people that came and said: why would we want to drive your roads? They’re so horrible. Here we are driving a $50,000 to $100,000 motorhome and it's getting wrecked, my rear end’s gone on my vehicle. And by word of mouth, these people travel from all over the world to visit our vast, beautiful country. And they said: "We'll be back when your roads are paved."
It's an issue. And so, I think every electoral candidate has for the last while – at least four or five – they have been all asked: when is the road going to be finished? When is the road going to be finished? It will be my term, and it still hasn't been done.
That's one of the things that keeps coming up. I've been going to the communities and I keep hearing that. I think it is an issue. And I said: "I hear you."
Q: You mentioned Firesmarting. What role do you see for the territorial government and yourself, if elected, in Firesmarting communities in your district?
A: I think we have to advocate to make sure that we protect our communities, right? And there is structure in place. We have to work with the structure that is within the territorial government. And I'm not really familiar with how that’s structured and I’ll be on a big learning curve.
But I'll tell you, I'm quite willing to learn the process and learn the ropes as an elected official because I totally believe that, as an elected official, I work for the people and I'm the voice of the people when it comes to issues.
And there's departments in place within the territorial government and you have to ask questions and say, how would you be able to do that? How can we make sure that we protect all of the Northwest Territories, not just the Nahendeh region, and Firesmart all our communities?
Q: You also mentioned the need to improve healthcare and supports for people who have disabilities and who are going through health issues. How do you plan to accomplish movement on that front?
A: I think I would have to find out exactly what the issues are, how the system works within the healthcare system – why is it not working, how can we improve it? – and start from there. And like I said, I'll be on a learning curve but I'm willing to learn, I'm willing to listen, and learn the process and how things are done. And to be able to address the questions and answers as I move forward.
Q: A last question, why should voters choose you on election day?
A: I have high standards for myself and I also totally believe that I have the skills to serve the people.
I just think that I have a lot of strengths, an ability to be able to listen, to be able to work with people in general, and I think that I am a good leader, and I'll advocate.
I totally believe that once elected, and one of my philosophies as an elected official, I will work hard for the people because the people are the voice. I'm their voice, if I'm going to be representing them, if I'm elected. And I need to be able to – when it comes to issues – to address the issues, and bring it forward where it needs to be addressed. And that is going to be a learning curve, because I'm going to have to know all the rules and regulations as you go through, if elected.
Asked to declare any outstanding lawsuits, debts or other issues that might form a conflict if elected, the candidate said there were none.
Simona Rosenfield, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio